MANILA -- Are you waiting for the end of this pandemic and the start of normalcy or whatever will pass for it tomorrow?
Are you waiting for the end to an embargo on live performances and to start kicking back and swaying to a manic and propulsive beat?
Are you waiting for the end of this extended bout of anxiety and the start to go on the road to recovery?
“It could mean whatever,” clarified Itchyworms guitarist and vocalist Jugs Jugueta of their new album "The Waiting for the End to Start." “Depende kung saan ka ngayon, it can refer to relationships such as the end of one and the start of being single or vice versa.”
The new – and fifth – opus from the alternative rock act doesn’t answer those questions. What it does is it gives a voice to the gamut of emotions that the world has felt in this pandemic. And in traditional Itchyworms fashion, the songs, delivered in rollicking fashion, provide a backbeat of hope so you can smile and wait for a new dawn.
Recorded in isolation, "The Waiting for the End to Start" is perhaps this quartet’s deepest and most introspective recording to date.
Like the rest of the planet reeling from the effects of the pandemic, the Itchyworms -- from Jugueta to drummer and vocalist Jazz Nicolas to bassist Kelvin Yu to guitarist Chino Singson -- dealt with the lock down in their own manner.
“Whatever plans we had before ECQ are up in the air,” admitted Jugueta rather mildly.
It is easy to equate Itchyworms’ zany personas and rollicking performances (and videos) to shiny happy people. And while they are, many of their songs drip with melancholia and its related flavors.
“Malungkot 'yung songs namin,” offered Nicolas. “But when we play them, we don’t try to make them sound sad because the lyrics are already sad.”
And I agree as it reminded me of American alternative rock heroes R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”
And fine Itchyworms is. The new album is therapeutic. Cathartic.
“We’re fun people,” corroborated Jugueta, Nicolas’ frequent co-writing partner. “'Yung paglabas ng sama ng loob… doon lumalabas sa kanta.”
One of the first songs released online from the album, “The Silence” is especially telling for it reflects the solitude one felt during the lockdown, of being mostly unable to go while being unable to mostly express one’s self given other social challenges. The song is best listened to along with its accompanying video, a powerful interpretation of emotions people went through.
And Singson felt it: “Guys, tinamaan ako sa feels (ng kanta).”
“Armageddon Blues” -- the other song released thus far -- is a bluesy rocker to shake the blues away.
The rock and roll may chase the blues away and pandemic be damned, the band has not lost its sardonic sense of humor.
The next single, “Sam Day,” is an indie pop jazz avante-garde song that clocks in at 6:59 long.
And then there’s the James Bond element.
Explained Jugueta: “Mula nung nagsimula 'yung lockdown lahat ng tao nanonood ng Netflix at 'yung tulad nito. Malaking influence 'yung soundtracks ng series and movies. In fact, the title track, ‘The Waiting For the End To Start’ is a homage to those James Bond films. Parang ‘The World Is Not Enough,’ ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ or ‘A View To A Kill.’"
The fifth album was recorded with what equipment was available, and crappy internet, at least for drummer and producer Jazz Nicolas during the ECQ.
And yet, the band pronounced themselves happy with the result. Perhaps, their best even.
“I haven’t been happy with this in a while,” bared Singson. “I have this greatest sense of satisfaction. I had more time with the work flow. Mas nabigyan ko ng care 'yung guitar parts. Of course, in no small part because the songs are so good. I discovered given enough time, I can craft good guitar parts. Unlike in the studio before the dinner break may magandang part na nailapat.”
“I’ve never felt the need to record by myself (except for a demo),” admitted Jugueta because the band had its own Big Baby Studios in San Juan. “So it was a struggle for us.”
Summed up Nicolas: “It’s not a perfect album but 'yun ang maganda about it. It’s not perfect, but because we had more time, we can absorbed the songs longer. So it is imperfectly perfect.”
Itchyworms will hold the virtual launch of "The Waiting for the End to Start" on August 17 at 7:30 p.m. on the band's Facebook page.